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A local Brookhaven business worth supporting.

Published by Jollean Smith in Community · 4/7/2020 09:20:16
Tags: CommunityTeaCompanyShopLocalMississippi

Who knew tea could be so interesting!

This week my lovely friend Rebecca Bates who is not only a garden and landscape expert, but also an outstanding (and award winning) MSU Extension agent, took me to meet two amazing guys who started a tea company in Mississippi, from the ground up.

Jason and Timmy started their tea company after hurricane Katrina. At that time, they had a tree business that suffered immense damage from the storms. It would be easy to run from the complexity of being a grower after suffering such a loss. Everyone would understand. Not these guys, they have incredible resilience.They took the challenge as an opportunity for innovation, to ask the important business question “what can we do differently?”.The answer to their question was tea.

Knowing absolutely nothing about being a tea grower, they decided to embark on a journey to bring tea to Mississippi.

Research, determination, investment and perseverance over the last 8 years has paid off into a budding and growing tea operation. They are one of two tea growers in the state and likely the biggest with The Great Mississippi Tea Company

Their amazing operations.
As I tour their operations I find “impressive” around every corner.

Their attention to detail is spot on, their operations are immaculate. Everything is thoughtfully organized and spotless. Items are beautifully placed to make everything in the room interesting.

The tea shack is full of massive equipment that is used to flavour and dry their teas. They have travelled far to learn the technique of other great tea makers and openly share their learning’s with you as they walk you through their operations. Their expertise is incredibly apparent as you listen to their knowledge of plant science and tea making.  

Timmy  gave me a tour of the tea fields. We hop on their side by side and drive across the road from their Tea Shack to go for a tour of their fields.  They have fields of what looks like hedges that you would line your suburban garden with. Those hedges are tea plants, carefully grown. I am shown a special area that houses many of their young tea plants in development. They baby their plants under shade cloth until it’s the right time to plant them in the ground. They have learned like most of us have through some trial and error how to be better plant parents.

What I appreciated was their humble sharing. Timmy isn’t afraid to show you where they have had problems. Any business owner or gardener knows that to do what they do, there had to be complexities and challenges. Their tour is not a facade of perfection but a true example of hard work and determination.

He drives me around the many acres of fields where more and more tea plants are being added to expand their operations. It’s impressive.

Although Jason and Timmy do on occasion hire local help for the massive amount of work they have, the majority of it to date is completed by them. It’s actually quite unbelievable to think they are growing, making and selling their tea all while maintaining a pristine operation mostly by themselves.

What I learned.
There were so many great learnings on this visit and I would highly recommend taking a tour to truly benefit from the wealth of knowledge they can share. One of the most fascinating things to me was just the understanding of what part of the plant is used to make tea.

To make tea you only harvest the new growth from the tea bush. And each leaf of that new growth makes different types of tea. Oolong tea is made from 6 leaves whereas green tea is made from the tiniest leaf bud. The rest of the plant is too bitter for anything else.

Back at their home, they brew a beautiful set of their teas, each one timed and brewed to the perfect tea temperature. My initial impression is that all of the tea’s are smooth. No slight bitter after taste. The green tea and peach tea were my favourite but none of them will disappoint.

Why you should support them?
Outside of the fact that these are two very nice guys, working very hard to earn a dollar, they are also bringing more local tea options to Mississippi and North America.

The #1 producer of tea in the world is China*, followed by India and Kenya. The amount of transportation required to bring you that tea has environmental impacts. Shortening the distance to your supplier is both beneficial to your community but also the environment.

Food regulations are going to be different in other countries. You can call someone here and get access to our regulations. Heck, call Jason and Timmy and they will tell you, I am sure. When was the last time you called China to ask what kind of soil and fertilizer they use? Or how much pesticides are applied to their plants? It’s a disconnect we often experience when we grab a box of anything from the grocery store shelves.

These guys will create jobs in North America. They are creating products that if one country stops sharing them, you will still have supply. They are local Mississippians and North Americans. And my favourite reason, they are plant lovers and dog lovers, how can you go wrong there.

How can you support them?
Buy their tea of course! They are available locally at Hall & Company in Brookhaven on Monticello St. Or shop online.

You can also get the full experience through one of their many tours. I highly recommend a tour, it is a really nice outing to experience.

Lastly, you can follow them on Facebook, The Great Mississippi Tea Company.

I am so grateful...
As we start on our own journey at Smith’s Nature Friendly Farms to grow into a small business, we cannot help but be inspired by these guys.

To start a garden that produces, is hard. To start a garden that produces in volume, is harder. To start a business with it, even harder.

To be kind, to share your time and knowledge is not hard, but it was incredibly awesome of them.

In the end we are so grateful to Jason, Timmy and Rebecca. Their gift of time was so appreciated by us at Smith’s Nature Friendly Farm.

Support local North American companies, buy from good people doing great things. Where your dollar goes matters.

As always, be friendly, be kind. Thanks for reading.

* Source:

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Smith’s Nature Friendly Farm Store

Want to keep reading?
Check out our bok review of "The Humane Gardener".
Learn how to care for baby chickens.

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Our blog can include Google Advertisements or Amazon affiliate links. These links can generate revenue from Google or Amazon. See our privacy policy to learn more.

10 cents from every dollar made at Smith's "Nature Friendly" Farm including ad revenue from Google or Amazon will be donated to the charities we work with. Learn more about how we give back.

Toxic Squash

Published by Jollean Smith in Vegetables · 30/6/2020 09:55:57
Tags: ToxicSquashVegetableCucumbersPumpkin

So recently one of my customers spurred my curiosity on the subject of toxic squash. I had no idea that the risk of squash becoming toxic was a thing, but turns out, it is. There actually is not a great deal of information on the subject easily found online. But I am going to share with you what I have learned and the #1 rule you will need to know about preventing toxic squash poisoning.

First off for some background. It is important to understand that toxic squash can impact pumpkins, gourds, cucumbers, Butternut, Pumpkin, Zucchini, Gourds and Watermelon. Essentially anything in the Cucurbitaceae family which includes all squash.

How does this happen?
The Cucurbitaceae plant fruit, before human intervention naturally contained a chemical called cucurbitacin. This chemical in the wild was the plants natural defence system against animals that want to consume their squash. Humans modified the squash over time to create strains with low levels of cucurbitacin. (This is essentially an early form of genetic modification).

So how does the toxicity come back?
It is said that it can happen when members of the Cucurbitaceae cross pollinate with “wild” Cucurbitaceae. Now some research says it is also possible with cross pollination with other plants. But this is where the research gets very muddy. There are 3 very public cases of squash poisoning all of which occurred in Europe. A german fellow ate a stew with toxic squash and died and two french ladies ate toxic squash, lost their hair and became violently ill for a month. Now, how their squash became toxic I cannot confirm. Perhaps, wild unaltered squash or their squash was cross pollinated. I have yet to find anything that scientifically states how their squash became toxic.

Should I be worried about toxic squash?

In short, no, I think we need to think rationally here. There is only a small number of cases of illness tied to squash poisoning in the world. And only 3 widely known that had extreme results such as hair loss or death. Some researchers are stating these are the first known cases that were this serious. In a world filled with squash growers, many eating from cross pollinated compost piles and gardens each year and only 3 serious cases are widely known of, the risk seems extremely low. Although, I do recommend being aware of it and being a smart gardening, I don't think people need to panic and start giving up on growing edible squash.

So what should you do to prevent Toxic Squash?
You can start with trying to prevent cross pollination. I would recommend being most careful with gourds cross pollinating with edible squash. If you do have wild cucurbitaceae growing in your area I would definitely be more careful to avoid cross pollination.
Be careful with cucurbitaceae plants becoming heat stressed. This can cause an increase in the toxins developing.

And the #1 rules for preventing Squash Poisoning…
Do a tiny taste test  before eating any squash or squash from the cucurbitaceae family.Never eat it, if it is bitter.

Take a tiny taste of any edible squash before consuming (a very small amount can make you sick so spit it out if it tastes at all bitter). Be especially careful with squash that may get lost in the flavour of something else such as zucchini in a stew or pasta sauce. Taste test before cooking it into a sauce. If it is bitter, do not consume it. Simple as that.

Important to note is that the cross pollination impacts will not take effect until you have eaten the squash grown from the cross pollinated plant. So, the second generation of squash.

Now, if you take the seed from the above OK cross pollinated squash to grow next years plant, that is where the risk for toxic squash will increase.

In my mind, even if you are buying your seed from a company though, there is no way to guarantee the seed you are purchasing has not been cross pollinated. Growers would have to manually pollinate and protect the flowers from any pollinators  and yes some do.

This leads me back to the best way to prevent toxic squash poisoning is just to test it and never eat a bitter squash.

Again, the risk is low. Getting in your car is far more dangerous than the squash in your garden but I think it is still very important to have the knowledge that it exists.

So keep growing squash, just do so now with Toxic Squash awareness.

Feel free to comment with anything you have learned on toxic squash, we would certainly love to see more research and findings on the subject.

We appreciate you joining us. Be kind, be nature friendly. Take care.

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Our blog includes Google Advertisements. These advertisements can generate revenue from Google.10 cents from every dollar made at Smith's "Nature Friendly" Farm including ad revenue from Google will be donated to the charities we work with. Learn more about how we give back.

Ranch Summer Squash Bake

Published by Jollean Smith in Recipe · 18/6/2020 09:31:30
Tags: SquashSummerRecipeBakeFarm

As you may have heard, I have the best neighbours. One of the great things about them is they share great recipes that use my abundance of garden goods. This is one they recently shared with me that they rave about and makes good use of the highly prolific yellow squash.

Ranch Summer Squash Bake

Slice squash thin.
Layer in a baking dish.
Sprinkle with Ranch Seasoning.
Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese
Sprinkle with Italian cheese.
Layer more squash and repeat sprinkling.
Add a few Tbsp of butter.
Bake @ 350 for 45 minutes.

Recipe credit: Wanda Jones Taylor with amendments by Nancy Smith < This is the awesome neighbour.

Super simple and yet very tasty!


Shop with us!
Smith’s “Nature Friendly” Farm Store or see our product page.

Want another recipe?
Try spaghetti squash pasta.

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Cucumber Salad

Published by Jollean Smith in Recipe · 18/5/2020 08:54:26
Tags: CucumberSaladgardenrecipe

It is cucumber season and this means two things. Pickling and cucumber salads!

All winter I have been eating lettuce, so it is such a refreshing change to have cucumbers. There is something about eating more seasonally that makes you appreciate the food even more. So here is my favourite and very simple cucumber salad.

Cucumber Salad

Note: You do not need to be strict to measurements. I tend to make things to taste and without measuring. I have listed a measurement for your benefit but the best way is to taste and adjust.

Start by mixing:
½ cup of sour cream (you want your cucumbers covered)
1 tbsp of dried dill
1 tbsp of lime juice
Salt & Pepper to taste

Toss in:
3 thick cut slices of cheddar cut into chunky blocks
2 medium cucumbers
¼ red onion thinly sliced
Bonus: If you have feta cheese this is also a great add on. Throw in a few tablespoons.

This salad is best eaten all at once and does not store well. The water in the cucumbers will release making it watery over time.

Well enjoy this great cucumber season salad.

Be friendly. Be kind.

Shop with us!

Smith’s “Nature Friendly” Farm Store

Want to keep reading?
Spaghetti Squash Pasta Recipe

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Our blog can include Google Advertisements or Amazon affiliate links. These links can generate revenue from Google or Amazon. See our privacy policy to learn more.

10 cents from every dollar made at Smith's "Nature Friendly" Farm including ad revenue from Google or Amazon will be donated to the charities we work with. Learn more about how we give back.

Book Review - The Humane Gardener by Nancy Lawson

Published by Jollean Smith in Books · 9/5/2020 09:58:20
Tags: NatureHumaneGardenerNancyLawsonBook

As some of you may know each year we set a book reading goal. This year’s goal is to read 12 books and we have completed 3 so far. I am going to share with you a review of number 3 which was Nancy Lawson’s “The Humane Gardener”.

This book should be the staple book for any nature loving person. It should sit on your coffee table out in the open ready to spark conversation with anyone who visits. I personally loved this book as it was a very close reflection of my personal growth to becoming more nature aware.

Nancy tells her own story of becoming more aware of nature and how she started to see that cultural norms were not very kind to nature. She writes about a few nature loving people who  are using their backyards to create incredible nature friendly spaces.

The book is a very easy read with some beautiful pictures and with just over 200 pages it goes pretty fast. You may want to have a pen and paper handy when reading it, as there are a lot of plant suggestions that you may want to jot down.

What I think I like most about Nancy’s approach in this book is that she is gentle. She is not making anyone feel bad for their habits. She humanizes the journey through her humble sharing of her own experience. She does not push perfection, but encourages balance. This to me will be the key in getting more people to be kinder to nature. It will be very hard to change the habits of our green grass, non native plant and chemical problem solving culture. To encourage change it has to allow for some balance.

I have left many pollinator friendly groups on Facebook as there is no balance. The ones I left jumped on people who still had a love for a not so friendly habit. A green lawn, bug spray, leaf blower, non native plant etc. Although I support the goal of getting people to move away from those things, it won’t be encouraged without a gentle approach and some flexibility. People need an education of the benefits, to grow an awareness of the nature that exists or that develops once some habits are changed. They don’t need to be shamed. Baby steps. If Bob keeps his leaf blower for his driveway but adds some native plants and drops the lawn chemicals, that is progress. If Sandy starts to add native plants but still occasionally adds a few non native tropicals to her garden, that is progress. It does not have to be perfect but we do definitely have to do better. The magic though is when a large number of people in the world make a bunch of small changes for nature and Nancy’s book is encouragement for this.

Her book will give you some very simple ideas on how to be kinder to nature. The stories of the benefits that others are finding will encourage those with a desire to create more balance.

For us at Smith’s Nature Friendly Farm this book aligns 100% with our values and goals. We are not perfect, but we are constantly working to be kinder to nature.

If you buy this book, you will be supporting a person who is educating the world on being kinder to nature. She presents to groups and on social media educating people the simple changes one can make to be kinder to nature. Seems like a good person to spend your hard earned dollars on if you ask me.

Her book is available here on Amazon:

This is a book that will sit on my coffee table for sure, consider adding it to yours.

Alright folks, thanks for reading. Be friendly. Be kind.

Shop with us!
Smith’s “Nature Friendly” Farm Store

Want to keep reading?
Baby chickens for beginners.
3 Trees that get you butterflies.

We would love it if you would connect with us:

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On Twitter

Our blog can include Google Advertisements or Amazon affiliate links. These links can generate revenue from Google or Amazon. See our privacy policy to learn more.

10 cents from every dollar made at Smith's "Nature Friendly" Farm including ad revenue from Google or Amazon will be donated to the charities we work with. Learn more about how we give back.

We appreciate you joining us. Be friendly. Be kind. Take care.

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